I’ve just returned from a short stay in Cyprus where I made sure to visit the pounds that we support over there. In hindsight, the major crisis that we encountered back in April 2015 where the Nicosia pound were demanded to close by the local municipality gave us a real chance to help the organisation rehome a large number of dogs and raise some awareness of the situation on the island. Since then, although animal cruelty is still rife and dogs are subject to neglect and suffering every day, the Nicosia pound have considerably less dogs than they did back in mid-2015 and their flow of dogs coming in and then swiftly leaving has most definitely improved.
The enhanced facilities now allow for running water, have enclosed kennels and there is even an area for food and necessities to be stored, complete with a fridge! Although there is a lot of room for development, the dogs were living completely outside last year, with their only shelter in the form of makeshift kennels, upturned recycling bins or corrugated iron sheets. This year the dogs are lucky enough to have complete shelter from the elements, each with their own coves within the kennels which are lined with blankets for a little comfort, they have daily socialisation as we have access to the compound at all times, and they receive daily food, water, exercise and affection from the volunteers who work tirelessly to provide the dogs with a better standard of living.
Sadly the situation in Limassol is still lagging behind and with every kennel usually fit to bursting they are desperate to increase their number of outgoing dogs from Cyprus to their new adoptive homes. As their pound is in an area owned by the municipality, access times are restricted and they are only really permitted one worthwhile visit per week where the dogs are exercised and their kennels clean and disinfected. Considering that some of these dogs are part husky or energetic hunting breeds, their confinement drives them crazy. Focusing on the dogs of the Limassol pound will be a particular rehoming focus in the coming months, because if the dogs are in the confines of the pound for an extended period of time their lives are threatened by the municipality who would happily put a dog to sleep if they have seen them time and time again behind the bars of the kennels. I spent the day in Limassol with Thea, one of the most down to earth and genuine women I’ve ever met, and I photographed all the dogs under her care that needing homes. It was heartbreaking to see how stressed out the act of rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming dogs was making her, but I can completely understand her pain when she said it felt as though we hadn’t actually done anything. Despite giving these dogs a second chance that they would have otherwise been robbed of, the situation is never ending and there are more and more dogs needing help every single day.
So, in order to try and start applying our targets to improve the welfare of the stray dogs on the island we will be looking into potentially establishing a spaying and neutering campaign in Cyprus this coming summer. Should we be able to initiate the campaign, approve our actions with the government vets, and collect a team of willing veterinary volunteers, we will then be on track to starting something really great which will improve the welfare of the dogs steadily, but significantly. One dog and her offspring in theory can produce a total of 67,000 puppies in the space of just 6 years, so each and every dog we are able to neuter will positively impact the future statistics of strays on the island. And Cyprus won’t be the only focus of our campaigns this year – we are also looking to get started with the situation in Romania and Puerto Rico between February and April, and then we will hopefully be in the position to address the situations in Bosnia and Greece around the end of the 2016!
I also had the chance to meet one of the editors of the the Cyprus Mail, Annette Chrysostomou, for the first time after she followed up the article she wrote about me back in October. On January 1st she published a short passage to let readers know that I had successfully completed my challenge, although I had no idea until I was at a party the following afternoon and someone mentioned that they had seen me in the paper! I also started to make some new connections with more people in the canine rescue industry over there too, of whom were aware of who I am and the work I’ve been doing due to the press. I was completely oblivious that this was the case, but it’s been a very positive thing. It even enabled a lovely lady from the Netherlands to make contact as she needed help with three dogs that had been abandoned on her doorstep as soon as she arrived in Cyprus! The power of media still impresses me every day, so many dogs have been saved due to reporting, sharing, uploading and tagging. I will be featured in the Cyprus Mail in the next week or so for the weekly Sunday column ‘A minute with…’ which is another lovely opportunity that Annette has offered me from the world of journalism. Although casual, I’m looking forward to answering the interview questions and taking advantage of another means of promoting my profession and our many dogs in need.